August is a tough month for gardening

Friday, August 17, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:53 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When it comes to gardening, I wish I could just sleep through August. By August my garden is a bit unruly. Some areas are downright neglected, and noxious weeds and insects seem to be taking over the world.

I am a little grumpy about the garden, because I pulled a little vine from my path near the woods and now have large weeping whelps on my face and neck. I have this unattractive, itchy rash on my face and neck because after I pulled the vine, I swatted mosquitoes off my face and wiped sweat from my eyes.

When I pulled the weed, I thought it was a little shoot of wood ivy, which I have a great deal of. After the whelps appeared, I took a second, better look. Yep, poison ivy. One eye is partially swollen shut. Oh, joy.

In August, my ferns go dormant. I love ferns, but I don’t feel right about watering enough to keep them lush, so I let them go, but it makes me a little sad.

My early morning forays into the yard are fairly uninspired, all I really want to do is to pull up, or plow under, everything because it all looks so bedraggled. My forays are getting shorter, as the mosquitoes get nastier, my weeds more profuse and my embarrassment about the state of the garden takes hold.

I feel this way every August. It is the same thing that happens to me in February, when I am sick of the cold and want to get outside and dig in the dirt, but it is too cold and frozen. The difference is that in August I feel trapped by the heat, bugs, constant weeding and dirty air. In both lies frustration.

I guess it is human nature to get tired of the same ole.

When I lived in the Middle East, I remember waking up one morning to a gorgeous blue sky and bright sun and thinking, “Another horrible sunny day!” When the clouds roll in and a summer lightning storm begins, I stand on my porch and hope for just an hour or two of cleansing rain. The clouds clear, but all the wind brings down are leaves and dead branches. I feel like I have lost a relative. I grieve for the rain that doesn’t come. August is a long month.

So, I turn to garden catalogues. I plan what I’m going to pull up, plant and build. I design new beds on paper, order fall bulbs and decide where my fall batch of compost will go. I plan the amount of materials I will need for whatever building project is going to occupy me when it gets cooler.

And, I dream of rain, clean air and cooler days. They don’t call August the “dog days” of summer for no reason.

Thank goodness for the redeeming goodness of sweet watermelon and vine-ripe tomatoes. Otherwise, I might not even go outside. Cooler days are coming, I keep telling myself.

Tammy Bush has been a Master Gardener of four years. She has been a pediatric nurse and educator, but now works from home as chauffeur to her two teenage sons. Two cats and a husband round out her life. When she isn’t driving she runs a quilting business, putters in her gardens and likes do-it-yourself yard and home projects. Shade gardening, recycling and Japanese gardens are a few of her favorite things. She can be reached at

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